Gary Garcia and Jerry Buckner were grade school friends in the early sixties who formed a local band known as Wild Butler. “We were writing songs, playing in bands, and, like most guys at the time, musicians trying to get by — trying to make it,” states Buckner. He adds, “We started a jingle business to supplement our playing at night,” stating that they also “needed to make a living. So, we would go in, get jingles to do, and then if we had a little bit of extra time in the studio, we would work on original songs.” Songs like the 1978 hit funk/soul disco single “I love the Nightlife” for Alicia Bridges, which landed in the fifth spot of the Billboard Hot 100.
In 1980, Gary and Jerry found it fit to offend sports journalist Howard Cosell by writing the Christmas song, “Merry Christmas in the NFL” which featured Cosell as St. Nick driving a black limousine. From there they composed “Footprints in the Sand,” based on the popular poem, for recording artist Edgel Groves. It hit number one on the Country Music and Christian Gospel charts and was the single most requested song to American disc jockeys in 1981.
While there were a few song-writing successes, jingles were still their way of life. Buckner recalls that “during one of these jingle sessions, we broke for dinner at a restaurant in Marietta, Georgia.
That’s where we got the idea. We saw people playing Pac-Man.” But they did more than watch…. “We first saw the game in this restau- rant on the square and we started playing it too and became hooked. I mean, like everybody, it was just incredible. And we began to spend more time in the res- taurant playing the game than working in the studio. So, at some point, both of
us said, you know what? If we could write, do a song about this game and get some local radio stations to play it, it might help our jingle business. And that was really the original idea behind it.”
To classic gamers and music aficionados of the eighties, this is the pivotal moment that led to the duo composing the 1981 chart topping song, “Pac-Man Fever.” The novelty song, which featured actual sound samples from the coin-op Pac-Man, could not help but become a hit while approximately one-billion dollars in quarters was finding its way into the 350,000 Pac-Man arcade cabinets worldwide in less than a year!
The song itself almost never happened. The duo recorded the song, but all the record labels turned it down. Buckner states that “our management company sent it around to all the record companies. This was still fall of ‘81. Everybody passed on it, didn’t understand it, didn’t think it would be a hit.”
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